MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Maplewood Pool fees are expected to increase by as much as 10 percent this year in an effort to close a continued operating deficit, plan for needed major repairs and help create a capital fund, the Maplewood Township Committee (TC) revealed at their meeting on Tuesday.

The proposed fee increases, which would boost the membership rate for a family of three-to-seven members from $445 to $495, would be the first increases in six years.

The Township is also considering expanding memberships to allow up to 325 out-of-town members each year, who would pay rates of about 50% more than Maplewood residents.

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“In recent years this has been an ongoing challenge for the pool which lacks a capital fund, coupled with decreasing pool membership revenues,” said Jennifer Coleman, a member of the Maplewood Pool Advisory Committee who spoke at Tuesday night’s TC meeting and presented the fee increase proposal. “Expensive repairs will be needed over the next few years” that will include an expensive pool filter and driving tank repair and “the dream of updating the men’s and women’s bathrooms.”

She said 6,400 Maplewood residents were served by the pool last year, with a revenue of $795,000. That did not meet the $825,000 in expenses, causing a $30,000 gap for 2017.

Since the pool does not receive Township funding, all revenue comes from memberships, lessons and pool party rentals.

“The pool committee in looking at the finances going back the past several years would like to do two things,” said TC Member Greg Lembrich, liaison to the pool committee. “One is address the gap currently between the operating expense of the pool each year and the revenues the pool brings in, and the second is to begin to establish a capital fund or at least some rainy day funds that exist should emergency repairs or other repairs be needed to the pool."

The proposed fee hike for 2018 would range from five percent to 10 percent depending on the type of pool membership.

Individual membership fees would increase from $270 to $295, couples memberships would go from $405 to $425, family memberships of three to seven members would increase from $445 to $495, while a family of eight or more would see its fee rise from $530 to $585.

The individual senior rate would stay the same at $190, while the five percent discount for early bird registration would also remain.

Group lessons would increase from $25 to $35 per swimmer, while weekend party rentals would rise from $300 to $500.

Fees were last raised in 2012, by 30%, in part to pay for the new water slides and some $1 million in renovations to the pool and locker rooms.

Pool membership has declined in recent years, from 8,681 in 2010 to 7,101 in 2015 and 6,400 last year.

“The gap between expenses and revenues isn’t as great as a few years ago, but it is still there,” Lembrich said.

That sparked the idea to allow a limited number of out-of-town residents, Lembrich added. Those memberships would be higher than residential rates, with non-resident individuals paying $445, couples paying $635, families of three-to-seven members at a $745 rate, and those with eight or more charged $875. 

“We feel that those prices, while obviously higher, would be competitive if not attractive compared to similar facilities in the area that have the type of offerings that we do and allow non-residents to join,” Lembrich said.

He stressed that there are “issues” with pool maintenance that “could be very serious issues” if not addressed. He cited a pool filter that needs replacement and would be “a major … six-figure repair … We felt that this is necessary.”

Most of the Township Committee members favored the idea.

 “I think it makes a lot of sense,” said TC Member Frank McGehee, while Nancy Adams added, “I, too, am in favor of the increases, I think they are long overdue.” 

But, Adams, continued, “I would like the Pool Advisory Committee to maybe brainstorm ideas to increase membership. When I moved to Maplewood and for many years after there was a waiting list for the pool, I would like to see a more aggressive outreach.”

Township Committeeman Dean Dafis also supported the effort to improve maintenance, but stressed the need to keep the pool affordable: “The thing that I would be concerned about is affordability and access to all.”

Several TC members cited the Pool Pals program that urges residents to fund memberships for their neighbors who cannot afford them.

An ordinance formalizing the rate increases and expanded membership will be considered at the next TC meeting on Feb. 20.